Rutgers takes road trip to midwest as it begins Big Ten play in Indiana, Iowa
The Rutgers field hockey team kicks off its inaugural Big Ten weekend with a doubleheader road trip this weekend.
The Scarlet Knights open up against Indiana (4-4, 0-1) on Friday before heading further west to face No. 15 Iowa (6-2, 0-1) in a quick turnaround on Sunday.
Rutgers takes on its first conference weekend riding on a four-game winning streak with a perfect home field record. In their most recent game against Siena, the Knights scored a program-record 13 goals in a shutout victory at Bauer Track and Field / Field Hockey Complex.
The Big Ten leader in assists per game, Rutgers can take confidence from its season thus far as it moves into the tougher portion of its schedule.
“We have high expectations," said senior defender Devon Freshnock. "Using this momentum going forward, I think we have a really dynamic senior class … we have a lot of leadership and I think we’re in a really good place going into Big Ten.”
Led by a veteran class of eight seniors, the Knights have something to prove with their 2016 team after going 0-8 in conference play last year. With at least one freshman starting in each position group and 10 different players with goals on the season, Rutgers has a depth to it that was absent on last year’s squad.
The team ranks second in the nation in scoring average, just behind No. 4 Penn State with 33 goals on the season through just seven games. The Knights have also taken four of their five wins by a goal differential of two or more goals.
Showing a strong offensive presence so far, getting numbers up early will play a large role in the outcomes Rutgers yields weekend.
“I think scoring is a big thing with this team — they feed of the energy, they feed off that momentum so that’s just gonna continue to be a focus,” said head coach Meredith Civico. “No matter what the score is, it’s a 0-0 mentality. We’re always fighting for the next goal so I think that’s gonna be really key going into this weekend.”
Rutgers takes on its first two Big Ten rivals in search for retribution after Iowa and Indiana both stole games from the Knights last year that they want back.
In 2015, Rutgers played its final conference game of the season at Indiana, which ended up being the final nail in the coffin of an 0-8 Big Ten record. On the flipside, the Knights opened up conference play against Iowa last year, falling to the Hawkeyes by a close score of 4-3.
Rutgers is intent on not letting this history repeat itself.
“We know that they’re tough so mentally, we’ve got to stay focused,” said senior midfielder Elyse Broderick. “We didn’t get the outcomes we wanted (last season) but we know what we have to do, what we have to fix and if we go in, take one game at a time, we’ll get the outcome we want this year.”
The key for the Knights to catch success this weekend will be remaining focused on playing their own game rather than getting caught up in what their opponent is doing.
Although Big Ten games carry more weight, and both Iowa and Indiana are rivals that carry a little extra sting, Rutgers takes on the challenge in the same way it has through every other game this season.
“It’s the same approach we have going into every game, just giving it our all, letting the ball do the work,” Freshnock said. “It has been all about us this season and it’s a process for us so I think if we focus on us, we’ll go past anybody.”
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